Dear friend …
Five hundred years ago on Oct. 31, 1517, a German monk wrote a paper and posted it on a church door. Largely, it was a challenge to the leaders of the Catholic Church who had sanctioned the selling of “indulgences” as proof a person’s sins had been forgiven. This document of Martin Luther is now commonly known as the “95 Theses,” and it thrust him into the center of controversy within the church.
Ultimately, his positions led to his excommunication from the church, and even more notably it is viewed the focal point of the “Protestant Reformation.” Luther had agonized for much of his life over his own sense of estrangement from God, even as a priest. It was through the revelation of Scripture that he came to believe that, in fact, salvation is by “grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph.2:8).
This is commonly referred to as sola gratia and sola fide in Latin. However, this idea was contrary to much of what the church of that day was teaching. This was a second flashpoint of the reformation. The Catholic church maintained that Scripture and the traditions of the church were equal. Luther had come to believe (as did other “reformers” before him and around him) in the authority of Scripture alone (sola Scriptura).
To most of us this seems basic to the Christian faith, but in Luther’s day – with the church holding power in so many ways – the concept of sola Scriptura was revolutionary. The church had come to portray itself, and establish doctrines to support such, as the mediator with God for the people. The priests of the church were considered to be in the line of the Levitical priesthood in the Old Testament. Thus, for Luther to propagate that in fact Christ alone (solus Christus) is our Mediator, and that every person may come directly to Him and find salvation alone through Him, led to the third primary doctrine of the reformation: the priesthood of believers.
We come to God through Christ, not through a priest. So, during this period I would encourage you to meditate on these things … in Scripture and in the many readily available resources. Thank God for “reformers” who were willing to risk their lives (and some lost them) in order to “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide and Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be the Glory).